A healthy Halloween. Does such a thing exist? Or like vampires, goblins, and ghouls, is the idea pure fiction? Well, with a little planning, it can exist. In fact, this holiday of sweets and treats may be the ideal time to practice healthy habits that can better prepare you to avoid the temptations of the holiday season ahead. Below are some ideas, tips and tricks to “healthify” your Halloween.
Before the Big Day
For the trick-or-treaters:
- Pay attention to the size of the trick-or-treat bag your child is carrying, and keep it small. Older kids can carry slightly larger bags, but they shouldn’t be huge. (This means no pillowcases! They can hold way too much candy.)
- Limit trick-or-treating to a two- or three- block radius. Not only will this minimize the amount of candy collected, but it can also help to keep everyone safe by having them follow a set plan, in familiar neighborhoods.
- Before trick-or-treating, serve a healthy meal. If everyone is full when the candy starts coming in, there will be less chance of nibbles along the way. Children should wait until they get home to eat any of their goodies anyway, so that parents can inspect them first.
For the treats:
- When you’re buying candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, use these healthy hints for eliminating temptation: Buy candy you don’t like, and buy it at the last minute.
- It’s true – handing out toothbrushes on Halloween probably won’t make you popular with the neighbor kids. But there are healthy and fun alternatives to traditional Halloween candy. Choose non-food items like the ones you’d find in a child’s birthday goodie bag – items like glow sticks, temporary tattoos, or bottles of bubbles.
On the Big Day
- Add some fitness to your Halloween by walking, instead of driving the car from neighborhood to neighborhood. Set a goal for how many houses you’ll visit, or consider wearing pedometers to track your steps.
- Of course, we can’t talk about a healthy Halloween without talking about a safe one. Children should always stay in groups when trick-or-treating, and they should never walk up to a house alone. Some other smart safety tips to keep in mind: bring a flash light, add reflective tape to trick-or-treating bags or costumes, and only go to houses with a porch light on.
- Or, ditch the trick-or-treating altogether and host a Halloween bash. Kids can still have all the fun of tricks and even treats, but serve food that’s healthier than Halloween candy, like pizza, dips and pita pieces, and fresh fruit. Play games, give out non-food prizes, and create your very own (healthy) Halloween tradition!
- Remember – even the calmest of pets can get unnerved by the continuous chiming doorbells and the endless stream of strangers at the door. Keep them in a separate room, or put up a gate or barrier, to prevent them from darting outside.
After the Big Day
- Inventory your children’s candy, and make sure it contains sealed, factory-wrapped treats only. You may want to let them choose a few pieces of candy to eat on Halloween night, but limit them to a couple per day after that.
- One great idea that has gained popularity in recent years is a Halloween “buy-back” program that allows kids to turn in their sugary treats for money or other healthy prizes. Check with your local dentist to find out if they have a program like this. If not, it’s something you can institute yourself – pay a nickel or dime for each treat your children “sell” you, and let them “earn” money for a toy, game, or fun activity.
- Halloween goodies should be stored up and away, in a cupboard. Not only will this keep treats “out of sight, out of mind,” for children (and adults!), but it also will also protect your pets, since wrappers can be a choking hazard, and chocolate can be toxic.
- Keep in mind that even small amounts of sugary Halloween candy are not just harmful to a healthy diet; they can also contribute to tooth decay. Tooth brushing and flossing are extra important after indulging in holiday treats.
The bottom line – by eating candy in moderation, taking necessary precautions, providing healthy alternatives, and incorporating a little physical activity, you can set the stage for a happy, healthy, and fun Halloween!